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Showing posts from May, 2011

Slightly off camber

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Have you ever experienced a string of days that were just a little off-tilt? Call it getting up on the wrong side of the bed, for a weekend. A good weekend nonetheless, but, you know ...

Beat and I went out for a mountain bike ride on Friday evening. I have a favorite mountain bike loop from home, over Black Mountain and down Stevens Creek Canyon, that's 26 miles with 3,400 feet of climbing. I recently introduced Beat to this loop and he was excited to go back on Friday, but I just wasn't feeling it. I was weak, sluggish and struggling with the climb a lot more than normal. I self-prescribed "slight overtraining" and admitted I was glad I had a mellow weekend planned. My baby sister, Sara, was visiting from Huntington Beach, Calif., for Memorial Day. She's not what you'd call an outdoor type, so I figured our weekend activities wouldn't be all too active. But that didn't make the ten-mile climb any easier.

Finally at the top, Beat and I bundled up in se…

Excerpt from "Ghost Trails"

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Rainy Pass, Alaska
February 26, 2008

The Puntilla Lake Lodge was little more than a roof and a stove pipe sticking out of a small mountain of drifted snow.

Its elevation was about 2,000 feet, an unlikely altitude for human inhabitants in that part of the world. Weather that would be considered extreme anywhere else — 20 below temperatures, 40 mph wind gusts, white-out blizzards — was normal weather outside the Puntilla Lake Lodge.

Around its wind-scoured walls, the last strands of spruce before alpine tree line, with scraggly branches all blown to one side, provided little protection. The wood stove blasted out dry heat as the lodge’s manager — a teenage boy — handed me a can of clam chowder that had been boiling on a camp stove, and a thin paper napkin to hold it with. I took a plastic spoon and stirred the off-white glop around the blackened can. The soup burned my fingers and charred my throat, but I finally had some of my appetite back and did not want to waste it. I began to nibble o…

Friday roundup

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In the midst of a lot of nervous energy about finishing up my book, and the tedious promotional work that's gone along with it, I've been grateful for my opportunities to get outside this week. Unfortunately, after the Banff/North Dakota/Ohlone 50K whirlwind of travel and activity, my body hasn't quite been able to keep up. I've been more sluggish than usual, and these days I actually have a GPS/heart rate monitor to show me the ways in which I haven't quite snapped back from recovery yet. Of course there was the 25-mile mountain bike ride with Beat, the seven-mile run along Skyline, and the Mission Peak hill mountain repeats (Beat's idea ... steep terrain practice) that together amounted to about 8,500 feet of climbing since the race. It's all just a continuation of the last two weeks and potentially the next two weeks. Barring injury or burnout, I actually think it's a good idea for me to "train tired" from time to time so I become will accu…

The publishing process

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While I was living in Anchorage, I dedicated a fair amount of time to shopping my Tour Divide book around in the traditional publishing industry. During my conversations with agents and queries to publishers, I learned a bit about the book industry — namely, that it was not only more difficult and more unstable, but also less profitable than the newspaper industry. An agent who tended to take on "niche" projects such as mine told me her clients were lucky to see advances of $5,000. Plus, royalties and press runs were small enough that few authors even earned out their advances — meaning that $5,000 was all they were ever going to see. And this all came after months if not years of securing a publisher, revisions, marketing, etc. This agent was just trying to be realistic, but it was discouraging. I had worked hard just to capture her attention, only to reach a point where I learned even success in the book business wasn't really that successful.

Just before I moved to Mon…

Ohlone Alone

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The Ohlone Wilderness 50K was my sixth ultramarathon — since Dec. 18, 2010 I've run five 50Ks and one nicely eviscerating 100-mile snow slog. Beat uses 50Ks as long training runs and I've developed the same habit. I'm really a "relentless forward motion" kind of a person more than I'll ever be a focused runner, so aiming to run a fast 50K doesn't really appeal to me. Being able to run three 50Ks plus another seven or so miles, however, does. So when I set out for a 50K trail race, I'm purposefully aiming to hold a pace that I could conceivably (optimistically) sustain for quite a bit farther than 50K. This of course is only a theory because I won't engage in any longer runs before the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 (although I may have an opportunity to pace as many as 50 miles in the San Diego 100.) But that was my hope for the Ohlone 50K — a sustainable ultra pace. My sustainable ultra pace.

As such, Beat and I agreed that we'd run the Ohlone separately…

Maah Daah Hey Trail, days 3 and 4

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I love living outside. It's an interesting kind of love, because I don't really go camping all that often any more. Truth be told, I can be downright lazy about the prospect of shoring up the gear, food, water and logistics necessary to live on the trail. I can be intimidated by long days under the hot sun, possible hours in the rain and nights curled up in a damp sleeping bag with a chilled wind whipping through my tiny backpacker tent. I'm discouraged by the fact that, no matter how diligent I am about sunscreen, I will return home with lips so chapped they're bleeding, wind-dried eyes and pink patches of sunburned skin; that no matter how much clothing I carry, I will at times be deeply chilled or uncomfortably wet; that no matter how much DEET I bathe in, the bugs will find me. But sometimes, through serendipity or necessity, I forget all that, and I get out there anyway. Every time, without fail, I find myself rolling out my damp sleeping bag beneath a star-soaked…

Maah Daah Hey Trail, days 1 and 2

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It was my first non-race, non-training-related, honest-to-goodness mountain bike tour in nine years. My friends who didn't know me back then hardly believe me when I tell them about the time I rode the 100-mile White Rim Trail in Utah over three days and nights, truly struggling to finish each day's 33-mile ride and eating massive Dutch oven dinners at night. Some were equally confused about my reasons for embarking on a trip to North Dakota to ride the Maah Daah Hey trail over four days. North Dakota is one of those prairie states (i.e. boring and flat), and aren't four days an awful long time to travel a mere 96-or-something miles on a bike? Well, maybe, yes, but that was really the point — a nice, relaxed camping trip with friends. Not everything I do needs to be filed away as "epic" or "training for epic." That's not who I've become in the nine years since I dropped into the White Rim with zero experience or training. I can still kick back w…